Badminton: National Interest Must Prevail

Much has been said about the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) decision to ban our top shuttlers Lee Zii Jia and Goh Jin Wei for two years because they chose to leave the national stable and go independent.

Although they can turn professional – which means they have to secure their own coaches and funding and make their own training and competition logistics – they won’t be allowed to compete in all Badminton Word Federation-sanctioned tournaments without the blessings of BAM.

They lose out by not being able to compete at the top level. To challenge for top honours. To qualify for the Olympics.

Malaysia loses too. Our best players are deprived from flying our flag. Who wins here?

When I served as Deputy Minister of the Youth and Sports Ministry, the stand has always been that the best athletes must represent Malaysia. Squabbles or friction between athletes and national sports associations are secondary issues and we always try to seek a resolution.

National interest must prevail. We need our best players. It is indeed odd that in today’s age, whilst discipline continues to be of utmost importance to our national athletes, the shuttlers’ professional callings can be restrained are equally frowned upon.

To elevate badminton to the level it is today, BAM has invested resources in scouting and grooming the best players for the country. It is a noble duty and challenging task to sustain this effort over decades.

We understand BAM may be trying to discourage and send a message to other shuttlers who are considering going pro. After all, BAM has invested heavily in these players for them to reach the very top. And yet, BAM does not take a cut in the prize money. Nor does the Nation as prize money is tax-free.

But when the shuttlers want to leave the national stable, they should have a way out. After all, they are still flying the Jalur Gemilang. And by turning pro, they will free up training, competitive and administrative resources which BAM can then channel to other up-and-coming shuttlers. Let’s keep the pipeline of talent flowing.

Perhaps a form of “transfer fees” or compensatory cost formula for BAM, or any other national sports associations, can be developed to achieve a more equitable and happy ending for all. It is not without precedent, even in the history of BAM.

About two decades ago, shuttlers Roslin Hashim and Ismail Saman left the BAM to join professional club Nusa Mahsuri. They were allowed to continue representing Malaysia in tournaments, after Roslin paid a compensation of about RM67,000 while Ismail had to fork out RM44,000.

Cooler heads have prevailed then. Why can’t we let national interest prevail again?

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